Our bad, McHale: Deal for Love was a sweetheart

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 9, 2010 - 9:23 AM
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Kevin Love, Kevin McHale

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We have established that it was hasty for an old scribe to offer this opinion after watching Kevin Love play an exhibition for the Timberwolves in October 2008: Love was slow, undersized and would have minor impact as an NBA power forward.

This has proven so inaccurate that the other premise of that treatise also has been negated: Trading shooting guard O.J. Mayo to Memphis for Love was another scarlet letter on Kevin McHale's résumé as the Wolves basketball boss.

The deal made on June 26, 2008, was the last major transaction for McHale, and has succeeded to the degree that the Hibbing legend deserves an upgrade in assessing his performance for this franchise.

The trade sent Mayo, guards Marko Jaric and Greg Buckner and forward Antoine Walker to Memphis, with Love, guard Mike Miller, forward Brian Cardinal and center Jason Collins coming to Minnesota.

It was McHale who was enamored with Love after working him out. He could have taken the UCLA freshman with the third pick, but he went with his pre-draft information -- that Oklahoma City wanted another Uclan in guard Russell Westbrook -- and Love would fall to Memphis at No. 5.

McHale let that happen, then traded Mayo to the Grizzlies for Love, and wound up with this result: getting the player he wanted, and getting rid of roughly $26 million owed to Jaric and Walker.

Critics can point out McHale made a bad deal for Jaric in August 2005 -- giving up Sam Cassell, as well as a first-rounder in the draft that the Wolves still owe the Los Angeles Clippers.

McHale ran the basketball department for 13 seasons, so everything traces to him, but the issue here is his last big deal and the hope it brings for this club to compete one of these next winters.

Love is averaging 20.1 points and leads the league at 15.5 rebounds after Wednesday night's 111-103 loss to Oklahoma City at Target Center. He's a legit All-Star candidate, although the Wolves' record (5-17) and league loyalty to an over-the-hill star such as Tim Duncan make such a selection unlikely.

The other main guy in that trade was Miller, but McHale's replacement, David Kahn, was able to turn the shooting guard into an asset. Kahn used Miller -- along with Randy Foye -- to acquire the No. 5 choice in the 2009 draft from Washington.

The Wolves selected Ricky Rubio. There was outrage with the Wolves' small legion of fans when the skinny teenager chose to stay in Spain, but it has been the best thing that could happen for this team.

Presumably, Rubio will be here next summer, more mature physically as a 20-year-old and, perhaps, ready to add another dynamic element to this roster.

Another?

Love and Michael Beasley (with 22 points per game) have been two such players for the current Wolves, and that could make Rubio a third. And if you want to stretch a bit, McHale's last big trade not only contributed Love and allowed Kahn to send Miller to Washington for Rubio, but it became a factor in the team being able to add Beasley this past August.

Miami was putting together the superstar crew of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh this summer. The Heat saw a need for a veteran outside shooter, and Miller was on the open market rather than still in Minnesota or Washington.

To clear the money to sign Miller, the Heat decided to drop Beasley, the No. 2 choice in that 2008 draft. Kahn seized on the chance to steal Beasley -- for a pair of a second-rounders -- and the Heat reject has given the Wolves an actual scorer.

Wednesday's raw numbers were OK for the Love/Beasley tandem, but the fourth quarter was not: The Big Two combined for 3-for-18 shooting from the field as the Wolves were outscored 27-17.

Later, coach Kurt Rambis was lamenting his team's lack of stars and leaders, such as Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. In truth, Rambis is closer to having some star power with Love and Beasley than the Wolves have been in the four seasons since the departure of Kevin Garnett.

And they have such possibilities only because of the last big trade made by the much-vilified Kevin McHale.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon to 4 weekdays on 1500 ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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